A Day (or so) in: Ballard
Note: This post is one of an intermittent series focused on experiencing the full and authentic flavor of specific Seattle neighborhoods. What to do and see, where to eat and drink, and other details are included, with an eye to keeping it affordable.
For a taste of both Old-School and New-School Seattle living in blended harmony, the neighborhood of Ballard is your destination. Situated in Northwest Seattle along the shore of Puget Sound, Ballard is the epicenter of Seattle’s long-standing Scandinavian community. It is also a hub of the fishing trade for the city.
Left: The brick-paved, tree-shaded shopping street of Ballard Ave. on a quiet afternoon.
With a staunch, proudly blue-collar image and long, independent-minded history, Ballard has become a magnet for artists and craftsmen as well as a new generation of fisherpeople and shipbuilders. You will find cafes that still serve up lutefisk (eeesh) and Maxwell House to the older generations of Swedes and Norwegeans and newer restaurants that list Copper River salmon and Café Vita espresso on the menu. The folks here are real, and there’s a wide range.
Right: One of the many funky little car mechanic shops in the 'hood... this one obviously with a sense of humor!
Below: A ship in drydock on the Ballard waterfront.
What to do, What to do….
Get a sense of Ballard Past by visiting the Nordic Heritage Museum. Apparently, it is the only museum in the U.S. to honor the immigrants from the Nordic countries. Here in Seattle, it is a relevant institution. Not only are there historical exhibits, but also ongoing events which are well attended, including a Christmas Pageant, concert series and Scandinavian art exhibitions.
Next Head to the Chittenden Locks to watch ships of all sorts move from the freshwater lakes to the salt water sound. You will see everything from huge container ships to single-person kayaks take the ride up and down. The Locks also host a well used fish ladder where many varieties of salmon can be seen migrating throughout the year. Finally, stroll the botanical gardens and find a nice perch over the locks for a picnic lunch.
Another great picnic spot is Golden Gardens park, just west of downtown ballard. It is a waterfront park with sandy beaches where you will find kids making sandcastles, beach volleyball games, and many, many sunbathers on the warmest days. From Golden Gardens, you can soak in views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains and catch a stunning sunset over the water.
If it is art you crave, visit the neighborhood on the second Saturday of the month to participate in the Ballard Art Walk. Galleries stay open late and often showcase new exhibits for this event, sharing wine and appetizers.
If it’s performing arts you crave, visit Live Girls Theater to attend a play, comedy, or poetry reading. This theater supports women artists by showcasing their work.
If it’s music you seek, check out who’s playing at the The Tractor Tavern. A long standing venue for local talent as well as touring bands, the Tractor is a staple in the Seattle music scene (and they serve good beer!)
Shopping in Ballard
There are far too many great shops in Ballard to try to list them. Suffice it to say, perusing Ballard Avenue alone could be a weekend’s project. Market St., which crosses Ballard Ave., is also filled with shops, markets and cafes. Here are a couple resources to get you going:
Above: Ballard Ave. is chock-a-block full of fabulous shops from clothing and shoes to home furnishing and pet supplies
Eatin’ & Drinkin’
Right: Portalis is a sweet little wine bar on Ballard Ave.
Hattie’s Hat, a venerable Ballard institution is where you will find old-time Ballard stalwarts and young-folk mixing and matching.
Ray’s Boathouse is another Ballard Tradition, albeit more upscale than Hattie’s Hat. This is where you go to watch that sunset with a cocktail or morsel of salmon in hand.
Restaruante Michoacan, reportedly some of the best Mexican food in Seattle.
Volterra… amaaaaazing Italian.
Dandelion Café… a hip, newer eatery.
Larsen’s Original Bakery is where you will find the real thing when looking for a “Danish”.
Café Besalu, another great bakery that trends more modern than Larsen’s traditional.
Dish D’lish is a casual little eat in/take out joint by Seattle foodie celeb, Kathy Casey.
Where to Stay???
If anyone knows of a good hotel, inn or B&B in Ballard, please comment! This is the one thing that seems to be missing from the world of Ballard.